Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that one of the hardest things about a worker’s compensation claim is establishing that you had an accident in the first place and that this accident is compensable under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. We have been over this concept before but in order for an accident to be compensable under the Act it is not enough that you were “at work.” You have to establish that the accident “arose out of” and “in the course of” your employment. One way of doing this is to show that you were at a ‘greater risk then the general public.’ This can get tricky when your job isn’t the typical clock in/clock out job, like that of a flight attendant.
A flight attendant’s job is unique. Many flight attendants do not live in the city they typically fly from, for example, they may live in Colorado but be domiciled in Chicago. They will commute by plane to their domicile. Also flight attendants still have to go through security at the airport well before they have ever checked in for a flight. All of this navigation, and making their way through airports, can be a prime way to become injured.
In a recent claim by a flight attendant before the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, the Commission confirmed how the law applies in situations like this. As with all workers’ compensation claims in Illinois, the flight attendant has to prove that their accident ‘arose out of” and “in the course of” their employment. They also are considered a ‘traveling employee’ in many circumstances but in this particular case the flight attendant had not left her domicile yet. She was injured while opening a large glass door to check into her flight. She had not even checked in yet. This door was very large and locked. The only way to get through it was to enter a code into a touchpad, turn the handle and pull the door open all at once. This had to be done while the flight attendant was holding her luggage and in her work attire. While doing all of this, her ankle gave way and she twisted her lower back.
The Arbitrator found that the general public is not typically required to open heavy doors with a touch pad all while rolling luggage and in uniform. He found that even though this flight attendant had not even checked in to begin work, she was performing an action that was “incidental” to her employment, i.e. checking in for her flight. Thus, her accident was compensable under the Act. The Commission agreed with this decision and affirmed it.
It is important to remember that even when you have not even started work yet you can still be injured in a manner that “arose out of” and “in the course of” your employment. It is important to document all the details of your injury because even one that seems minor, i.e. using a touchpad while holding luggage, may make the difference in determining whether you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits or you are not.